I just told her the other day –

didn’t I?

that I no longer had time to write, that the moments

would just have to “hit me.”

And, there it was, there

he was

flung over the concrete median

blood dripping down his wedding ring finger

onto the holiday-trafficked highway

an inverted car and smoke as his backdrop.

While driving and sobbing to my mom over Bluetooth,

I was reminded of the wreck that brought me

straight home to you, of forgotten errands,

of the dead man, halfway out of a car’s window

of how you greeted me from the garage

and held me on the weight bench

you were sweeping around.

Of the boy, slung –

to the pavement of the intersection,

immediately outside of art class.

From my rearview mirror, the worst part

was watching a father explain

what happened to his small son.

The man rolled his hand over,

palm up.


I saw you that night –

fumbling, trying to locate a place

for the temporary, cartoon, bumble bee tattoo.

You tried the small of your left wrist, the inside

of your arm, the back of your hand.

You peeled the back off carefully –

each time –

expecting it to be there, as a sticker would.

I smiled at your lack of water

and understanding, at your frustration –

looking away in your acknowledgement.


After dinner, you roll the toothpick

in the palm of your hand. You flip

it over and under, test the sharp tip,

pick your teeth.



Finally, with a smile, it settles

in the corner of your cheek.

When I lean in to kiss you, you quickly

take in the toothpick, hiding

it just behind your puckered lips –

just as my dad did

when kissing me goodnight.



Your dimples, much deeper than his.

Childhood Religion.

Walking into church
through the heavy door
onto just swept carpet.


A bulletin from Poppa,
gum to chew, pen from mom’s purse
I plop down in the back row pew


beside a brother to poke during prayer.
Velvet jade hymn books.
Communion’s leftover shot glasses.


The angled sunlight pinpoints my position
to the pulpit, I avoid the pastor’s eyes
intensified by glasses and puny frame.


I count ceiling wood panels
travel the cracks in the stained glass
wonder if it’s noon yet.


But Pastor Steve always runs over
clenches his fist to stress
the final, final point.


My brother and I plan our escape
head down, squeezing through the line
molding ourselves against the opposite doorway


avoiding his questions
his small talk
his too familiar handshake.



Appeared in Referential Magazine, November 2012

Reviews of Chapbook

These are poems that distract us from the horrors and clutter of the larger world and guide us back to the small moments in life that are, perhaps, the only ones that truly matter.

~Cathy Smith Bowers


Despite the title, Jenny Billings Beaver’s debut collection is far from “ordinary.” These poems create a thorough and vivid emotional narrative that draws the reader in and resonates with the reader long after the turning of each page. Charming and frightening, powerful and comforting, the poems from Ordinary Things celebrate, simply, the endurance of living.

~Dominique Traverse Locke, author of The Goodbye Child and No More Hard Times